The disciples looked at each other, wondering whom he could mean. The disciple Jesus loved was sitting next to Jesus at the table. Simon Peter motioned to him to ask, “Who’s he talking about?” So that disciple leaned over to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?” (John 13:22-25)
Relate: The 12 Apostles:
Matthew Mark Luke John
Peter Peter Peter Peter
Andrew Andrew Andrew Andrew
James James James “Sons of Zebedee”
John John John “Sons of Zebedee”
Philip Philip Philip Philip
Bartholomew Bartholomew Bartholomew Nathaniel
Thomas Thomas Thomas Thomas
Matthew Levi Levi –
James bar Alphaeus James bar Alphaeus James bar Alphaeus –
Thaddeus Thaddeus Jude bar James Jude (Not Iscariot)
Simon of Canaan Simon of Canaan Simon (the Zealot) –
Judas Iscariot Judas Iscariot Judas Iscariot Judas Iscariot
There are two things that I want to mention here: first, unlike the synoptic gospels, the gospel of John never makes a list of the twelve apostles. Three of the twelve are never mentioned, Bartholomew is called Nathaniel (Yes, I agree with practically all of church tradition and scholarship that calls the two the same person) and even two of the big three (Peter, James, and John) are only mentioned as the “sons of Zebedee”.
Second, there is another disciple named only as “the one Jesus loved” twice in John. Now it has been a fun trend for the past hundred years or so to try and “figure out” who this guy really is. Lets forget the fact that throughout all of time and church history and even the most cursory examination it is obvious that this beloved disciple is John. We want controversy. There is no controversy here. It’s John.
By the time John wrote his gospel he would have been the only surviving apostle. One after the other the rest became martyrs after being missionaries. They left their homes and comfort to carry out the great commission and ultimately gave their lives to tell about His. John should have been a martyr. They really did try. But He lived on. He must have been a figure larger than life for that early church. He would have been like Billy Graham, Mother Theresa, and the Pope all rolled into one for that first century of believers. So when John wrote his gospel he did his best to keep himself out of it that only Jesus would receive glory. He told stories and recalled events that hadn’t made it into the other recollections written and being passed around. It wasn’t “later additions” and it isn’t any more historically inaccurate. This gospel was John saying, “Here’s what you’ve heard so far. Let me tell you a bit more about Jesus.”
React: I have to admit if I were in John’s shoes I might have painted myself on every page of that gospel. “I was there when He…” “Later when the others were out He told me…” “It was only me, Peter, and my bro who went with Him to…” Instead John shot for obscurity. He avoided that spotlight as much as possible. Even when he couldn’t avoid mentioning himself, he only did so obliquely. This story was all about Jesus, so he didn’t matter.
I remember in college a pastor coming to speak who threw out a challenging question. “Would you be willing to serve in obscurity in some rural town for your entire life laying the foundation for revival, then only after you have moved on or passed away someone else comes in, reaps the harvest from all your sacrifice and gets all the glory?” Would I be willing to have my name completely removed from the picture? If total obedience means complete obscurity, am I willing to walk down that road? Is it OK to watch everyone else get credit and recognition while I am completely overlooked? If not, then who am I really serving?
My life is Yours, God. Let everything I do be about You, for You. Even if nobody will ever know my name… that’s OK. I am known as the One that You love and that is more than enough. You are all that matters. Your glory is everything.